Author Archives: skomagata

About skomagata

Sachiko Komagata, P.T., Ph.D. is an Associate Professor & Chair Department of Holistic Health & Exercise Science. She teaches many diffferent courses with the holistic health program at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Poems Created after Discussing Yin and Yang

This is one of the series of poems created by our graduate students in Holistic Health Studies program after discussing the concept of Yin and Yang, one of the central theories in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Hope you enjoy it!


Wisdom of the Ageless By Vicki Flores

Sedona sandstoneVicki
Mirroring wisdom of the
Spire and sentry,
Postures and positions,
Shift in the sunlight,
Offering reminders of deeds
Yet to be done

Prescott pine
Mirroring wisdom of the
Container of peace,
Prayer and pebble,
At the lake’s edge
Offering reminders of wisdom
Yet to be shared


It is time for Brain Gym!

Hello everyone,
Children in NJ are not playing outside enough. Typical elementary school students stay in the building all day except for 20 min. recess outside. When I visited my daughter (then 7YO) at her school, I was very impressed that her teacher was incorporating brain gym activities in between lessons. Brain gym is not just for children but the application can be limitless.

The below article was written by one of our graduate students, Valerie Dietz as a partial fulfillment of the HH501 Foundations of Holistic Health at Georgian Court University. Enjoy it!

BrainGymBrain Gym, Neurobics and Neuro-aerobics
By Valerie Dietz
Georgian Court University

Brain gym is an exercise that enhances the integration of right and left brain hemisphere. It creates equilibrium between the two and strengthens areas that may be weak in one hemisphere. Brain gym exercise is intended to remap or create neural pathways through positive self-talk, exercise, repetition, and stimulation. Prior to the exercise there are muscle and breathing relaxation exercises that are suggested as preparation so the brain and body connection can work more efficiently. Stress is a big obstacle when trying to learn a new skill or override an old pattern with a new skill (Tennant, 2005). Many hormones, neurotransmitters and chemicals are released in the brain which seems to guide our decisions, behaviors, emotions and feelings. It is suggested that prior to brain gym exercise one needs to do breathing exercises and stretching to relax the mind, brain and body and set the occasion for optimal learning. The objective is first to reduce stress. Stress can inhibit the learning and remembering process. Being calm with a positive mindset is an important condition to facilitate learning. Brain gym stimulates the regions of the brain for cross communication with the opposite side of the brain or areas of the brain that are not normally utilized in everyday activities. This gives neurons a specialized function to actually perform and be utilized (Ratey, 2008). There are several regions of the brain that are underutilized and less frequently stimulated. Exercise and mental activity play an integral role in bringing to the forefront aspects of the brain that require stimulation and attention. There are twenty-six exercises that are involved in brain gym (Tennant, 2005).

A Psychologist, therapist or Licensed Professional Counselor can incorporate brain gym therapy into a session which may cost upwards of $65 to $70 dollars an hour. The session may begin with breathing and relaxation exercises initially and then further strategies are introduced to reduce stress prior to the specific brain gym exercises. The sessions can be performed in an office or gymnasium or even outdoors. Private counseling or one on one session can even be performed at the client’s home. Brain Gym training and certification can be obtained in addition to a Master’s degree or other advanced training in counseling. Brain Gym workshops can be obtained on-line or face to face. CEU’s, and credit hours are offered for certification and advanced training. The Brain Gym Organization offers workshops in specific cities throughout Canada and the United States. The Brain Gym Organization headquarters is located in California and workshops are offered in specific States. The session typically consists of classroom lecture followed by brain gym exercises. A workshop in the Cherry Hill area charges $500.00 for three days of brain gym training.
According to Healthy Exercise World website and Student Services Prevention, while twenty-six exercises have been identified only ten are going to be considered at this time. The brain gym exercises chosen to be featured include: cross crawl, brain buttons, lazy 8’s, arm activation, hook ups, thinking caps, calf pumps, the elephant, energy yawn, and positive points. Each exercise has been identified as working on specific parts of the body and brain. The cross crawl exercise works with the right and left brain hemisphere to stimulate particular regions (Tennant, 2005). These exercises strengthen spelling, reading and writing abilities as well as listening and comprehension. The brain buttons exercises increase circulation of blood flow, oxygen and water to the brain (Student Services Prevention n.d.). It is involved in learning and movement. The lazy eights improve visual responsiveness for reading, eye movement, and attention from right and left hemisphere of brain. The arm activation increasing lengthens time of attention/focus. Hook Ups tends to improve moods, decreases anxiety, and improves motor coordination, balance and anger management (Tennant, 2005). The thinking cap assists with facilitating improved quantity in spelling, short-term memory, attentive listening skills and nonconcrete thinking. The calf pumps trains the mind and body for stamina, attentiveness, focus, comprehension, creativity and imagination. The elephant exercise activates all regions/parts of the mind and body. The energy yawn is a relaxation technique that alleviates stress that can alter and change learning and optimal over-all performance. The positive points exercise reduces stress and improves short and long-term memory (Student Services Prevention, n.d.).
A number of disorders have been shown to benefit from brain gym exercises. Brain gym has been used with children or adults that have ADHD, Attention Deficient Hyperactive Disorder or ADD, Attention Deficient Disorder and Autism. People with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson ’s disease, dementia, and multiple sclerosis can benefit from brain gym. Brain gym strengthens the different parts of the brain through physical and mental exercise and cognitive skills. Addiction disorders, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), and a wide variety of mental health disorders can benefit from brain gym in order to stop old maladaptive habits and stimulate new neural pathways and a positive mindset. There are no contraindications unless a physician deems the physical part of the exercise prohibited due to physical limitation or a declining or debilitating disease or illness that may be worsened by physical exercise. Brain gym can also be used as a passive range of motion exercise for patients who suffered from a stroke, memory loss, paralysis, traumatic brain injury and even may be beneficial in comatose patients. This technique allows the brain to make connections, spark memories, learning and new pathways. The brain often compensates when an injury occurs as other parts of the brain develop the function of the damaged area as reprogramming occurs due to the flexibility and plasticity of the cells (Ratey, 2008).
Some pros and cons with brain gym have been cited in research and studies are still being conducted. It is a therapy that has been viewed as a bit controversial in the main stream psychoanalytical field. There are numerous theories and perspectives on the mind, body and brain and which therapeutic technique is considered the best. With the emerging fields of holistic health, alternative therapies and complimentary treatments there are diverse therapies designed to connect the mind, body and spirit and do not merely focus on the mind. These systems are all working together often supporting one another as a single mode of treatment may not optimize the outcome. Brain gym uses a variety of different techniques to enhance brain and body connections.
According to Ratey (2008), Neuro-aerobics are physical exercises that stimulate the brain. Neuro-aerobics also produces hormones; and activates neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. The exercises also send out signals that impact specific brain functioning associated with moods and feelings. The stimulation of glutamate and GABBA affect mood, emotions and feelings. Different sections of the brain are activated during exercises as chemicals, hormones, and neurotransmitters are all released in predetermined patterns and amounts. During exercises a feeling of well-being is experienced. The circulation of oxygenated blood travels throughout the body during exercise which gives the physical body and brain a sense of aliveness, alertness and energy. Neuro-aerobics include exercises that require precise muscle coordination in accordance with intergration of both brain right and left hemispheres. Examples include: tennis, martial arts, Pilates, yoga (asanas), cycling, hiking, biking, and dancing.
According to Katz and Manning (1999), Neurobics is an exercise to enhance memory, create new neural pathways, change old patterns, and modify the structure and function of the brain. The exercises in this program are geared to stimulating the five senses and expand the plasticity, and function of the brain. It enhances memory, learning, and makes positive connections through the synapses. Neurobics can also be used as a passive range of motion exercise for patients that have had a stroke or brain injury. With the assistance or accommodations of a support person, mentor, friend or family member, body parts are manipulated and stimulated to facilitate neuronal firing. Some of the exercises utilized during this program are thought-provoking, stimulating, with absolutely no routine in order to make one stray from his/her comfort zone. Some examples of the activities include: “blind ambition” (Katz & Manning, 1999 Kindle) – feeling without looking, take a detour – don’t drive the same old road, park your car in a different place in the parking lot, brush hair and teeth with opposite hand, sensory stimulation – aromatherapy, try different foods -have an educated palate, mixing things up, a new hobby or activity, taking a new road or path, or new exercise (Katz & Manning, 1999 Kindle).
Overall brain gym, neuro-aerobics and neurobics are interventions to improve cognitive functions, utilize neurons and alter the neural structure within the brain. The long term benefits from these inventions are quite remarkable thus forging new neural pathways that can stimulate different regions of the brain. These types of inventions can be used to restore brain functioning or modify and remap areas to make positive connections. The cognitive functioning of individuals who practice exercise within the brain tend to have less deterioration of brain cells because neurons are being utilized to a wider variety of novel tasks. Adults can enhance brain functioning through specific exercise and children can benefit from brain gym during their development to strengthen areas that may be under-developed or under-utilized. There has been an emergence of synthetic drugs to change the chemical receptors of the brain and to address numerous mental and neurological disorders. These drugs are not without significant side effects and dangers. Brain Gym and similar interventions can achieve the same results, only naturally and without the same level of risks and dangers. The results are also more permanent. The trend of brain gym and emphasis on cognitive stimulation seems to be emerging in specific locations in the United States. In recent years people have come to realize the significance of exercising the mind in addition to the physical body in their quest for self-optimization.

Katz, C. & Manning, R. (1999). Keep Your Brain Alive. 83 Neurobic Exercises to Help Prevent Memory
Loss and Increase Mental Fitness. Workman Publishing Company, Inc. New York, NY [kindle]
Retrieved from
Ratey, J. (2008). Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (Your Coach in a Box)
Hachette Book Group, New York, NY. Gildan Media Group, Audiobook, Unabridged
Retrieved from
Student Services/Prevention, Ten Free Brain Exercises (n.d.), (n.a.)
Retrieved from
Tennant, V. (2005). School of Education at John Hopkins University. The Powerful Impact of Stress
Retrieved from

Valerie Dietz is currently a student in the Master’s program at GCU in the Holistic Health Studies, Reiki Master in the Usui Shiki Ryoho natural healing certification, AA in Psychology and AS in Associate of Science from Burlington County College, NJ, Graduate of Colorado State University in Pueblo, CO with a BS major in social science and minor in sociology and psychology. Studied nursing curriculum for two years at BCC. Worked at day treatment centers with Dually diagnosed and brain injured clients utilizing a holistic intervention approach. Background in computer software and hardware areas with several certifications. Background as a Fitness trainer at Curves. 


Demystifying Reiki Through Research Studies

Suzanne McMurray, Reiki Master providing Reiki to another Reiki practitioner

Written by Sachiko Komagata

Hello everyone, you may have heard about Reiki at your local welllness center, hospital or doctor’s office.  What is it?  Eve Sicurella, experienced body worker interviewed Anne Vitale, Ph.D., APN, AHN-BC, Assistant Professor, Drexel University Nursing Program about Reiki research as below.

Reiki has been known to arouse controversy in some circles and gratitude in others.  I think the controversy arises from our inability to understand something we cannot explain while a feeling of gratitude arises as a result of relief of pain, sometimes physical, sometimes mental.

Reiki was not something I easily understood myself.  My first introduction was 14 years ago while in massage school.  I was surprised by my strong desire to take the first level training because Reiki was so,.. just so,… well different.    My desire was challenged by my left brain’s relentless questioning about the how and why of Reiki.  Over the years I’ve experienced sessions and each time walked away having a new relationship with my body and the world.  My anxiety and stress levels were noticeably reduced, my aches and pains seemed lessened and as a result, my perspective on the world was much different.    Even though I clearly noted these physical and mental changes, I wanted an explanation for what was happening.

Fast forward 12 years and I’m a student at Georgian Court enrolled in the Holistic Health Program.  I find myself doing a research paper on Reiki.    Much of what I came across lead me to understand Reiki in ways as I hadn’t been able to previously.  I’d come across a book by Pamela Miles which influenced me with its clear, understandable explanations that brought Reiki out of its mysterious status.  It was during this time that I met Anne Vitale, PhD, APN, AHN-BC, Assistant Professor Nursing Faculty for Drexel University as well as project facilitator and co-founder of the Center for Reiki Research.    Anne agreed to meet with me to be interviewed for this blog, so we got together for breakfast.  I learned a lot about not only research but the importance of a study well-performed.

The Center for Reiki Research (CRR) has been instrumental in not only organizing Reiki research but consolidating it, summarizing it, and making it easier to access.   This process (called “integrated review”) allows for easy access to Reiki information says Anne and just as importantly, creates the opportunity to produce more efficacious designs in future Reiki research studies.   Many studies done in the past cannot, by today’s standards, be considered credible due to not following basic design formats.  Because of the nature of Reiki and the fact there is not the technology to measure energetic changes that have occurred after a session, it is important to build a solid foundation upon which further and more extensive research might be done.

According to Anne studies thus far are “trending towards evidence” that Reiki can provide relief in cases of anxiety, pain management and depression.   “Western medicine is just beginning to recognize the value of Reiki in pain management”.   In fact, hospitals in New York and Philadelphia, and even closer to home at Community Medical Center, offer Reiki to patients.  Isn’t it something that what Reiki practitioners have known over the years is now being validated?

According to a Consumer Reports article in 2009, prescriptions were written for $9.9 billion in depression drugs alone.  That figure was up 3.3% from the previous year.   It is timely then that Reiki is becoming an adjunct therapy for management of pain, anxiety and depression and that CRR  is accumulating data about the emerging effects of Reiki on pain management.

Eve Sicurella has maintained a private massage practice since 1998.  Her extensive education includes a Certification in Holistic Health from GCU as well as training in various energy and physical modalities.  Eve has presented workshops at Lakewood Community Education Programs, Ocean County Women’s Council of Realtors and on behalf of the NJ Holistic Magazine

National Conference to End Factory Farming (Oct. 27-29)

Farm, Food, Animal, The Earth--we are all interdependent of each other (Photo from

After showing “Forks Over Knives” on GCU campus, it was very timely to receive an email from one of our MA in Holistic Health Alum asking for one or two travel companion to attend National Conference to End Factory Farming (Oct. 27-29) sponsored by Animal Sanctuary. GCU vegetarian Society has been offering various opportunities for us to become aware of the potential impact of factory farming on farm animals, human consumers, and our environmental.  GCU Dining service, Chartwells, has been extremely supportive of the initiatives, such as “buy local” and “meatless monday” and continues to expand its menus that attract plant food lovers on campus.  As a higher education institution, GCU continues to show its committment in creating sustainable attitudes, behaviros, and practices through numerous innovative approaches and ideas that cluminate into reality through sustained leadership of Louise Wootton, Professor in Biology.  To name just a few, GCU now have new “sustainability minor” and recently received EPA’s recognition as the most green power user among other schools of Central Atlantic region.  For more information about sustainabiilty at GCU, participate in GCU Sustainability Blog (

This conference aims to end factory farming through attracting diverse professionals and interest groups, such as animal protection, public health professionals, and environmentalist.  Over 30 presenters including Executive Director of Food and Water Watch Wenonah Hauter, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine director of government affairs Elizabeth Kucinich and leading researcher in the field of diet and disease and author of The China Study Dr. T. Colin Campbell.  

Regardless of your food orientation (plant food lover or not), if you would like to be a travel companion for Bea Lavelle, contact her directly at or maybe GCU will have a bus-load of students to attend as an experiencial learning outside the classroom!


Sachiko Komagata, P.T., Ph.D. is an Associate Professor & Chair
Department of Holistic Health & Exercise Science. She teaches many diffferent courses with the holistic health program at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Are there Monk Effects?

Compassion Mandala being formed by the monksWith Geshe Lharampa Lobsang Dhondup

This morning on 9/26/11, approximately 40 people gathered at the Peace Pole at GCU as Sacred Arts Tour (8 Tibetan monks) performed its opening ceremony.  Soon Compassion sand mandala began collecting colorful sand meticulously placed by the monks using thin long pipe-like metal instrument.  The overtone chanting, as one of our undergraduate students described as “sounds more like singing,” touched our whole being.  Everyone whom I could see in the audience showed peaceful facial expression as they sat quietly and absorb all they can from the monks presence and actions.  Some closed their eyes throughout the chanting and prayers.  It was an experience that transcended language, religion, spiritual practice, and cultural differences to all of us.

So are there any Monk Effects?  What happens in our body and soul when we meet monks who have been devoting their lives since their childhood to peace and compassion?  Spontaneous smiles, waving of hands, bowing, and wanting to approach the monks—are these all considered Monk Effects?  If so, how long does it last and how far do these effects travel with each individual?

At lunch time, monks ate their lunch in the cafeteria with the GCU community.  We were all curious and asked many serious as well as casual questions to the monks while eating.  For instance, when did you enter the monastery?  What can I do to calm my mind while trying to meditate?  At our table, Geshe Lharampa Lobsang Dhondup, one of the 2 leaders of the tour responded in Tibetan, and then it was interpreted into English by Tempa.

Six hours since the beginning of sand mandala formation, its central area’s details have been complete.  Looking at the posture monks are in during sand mandala formation—completely bent-over from the hip forward in seated position—seem to give a significant strain to their neck and back.  I had the privilege of giving back to the monks by the ancient healing art of massage, shiatsu, and gentle touch.  Many of them appear to benefit from more body work to them while they give us the monk effects that I described above throughout this very special week here at Georgian Court University Lakewood campus.  Hope to see more and more people experience monk effects!


Dr. Sachiko Komagata, P.T., Ph.D is an Associate Professor & Chair
Department of Holistic Health & Exercise Science. She teaches many diffferent courses with the holistic health program at the undergraduate and graduate level.